Google has fired more than two dozen employees who publicly protested against the tech giant’s controversial $1.2 billion cloud computing contract with Israel, as institutions face increased pressure to divest from a government whose U.S.-funded military is in its sixth month of attacking Gaza.

The workers held protests on Tuesday at Google’s campuses in New York City and Sunnyvale, California, the latter of which houses the Google Cloud headquarters. Organized by No Tech for Apartheid, the employees participated in a 10-hour sit-in inside the offices — including that of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian — to protest Project Nimbus, a joint contract with Amazon to provide the Israeli government and military with artificial intelligence and cloud services.

Google had police arrest nine of the protesting employees on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the tech giant fired 28 employees following an internal investigation, according to a company-wide email from Chris Rackow, Google’s vice president for global security. The email was obtained by multiple news outlets.

The protesters “took over office spaces, defaced our property and physically impeded the work of other Googlers. Their behavior was unacceptable, extremely disruptive, and made co-workers feel threatened,” Rackow wrote, adding that employees should expect company leaders to speak more about standards of behavior and discourse in the office.

“Behavior like this has no place in our workplace and we will not tolerate it,” he continued. “It clearly violates multiple policies that all employees must adhere to — including our Code of Conduct and Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation, Standards of Conduct, and Workplace Concerns.”

NTFA confirmed what it described as retaliatory firings and arrests in a statement Wednesday, claiming that some of the workers who were fired did not even directly participate in the protest. The organization also vehemently denied Google’s allegations that protesters defaced property and impeded the work of their colleagues and pushed back against the company’s claim that the protesters were largely not company employees.

“This is not just untrue, it’s insulting. Thousands of our colleagues have joined our call for the company to drop Project Nimbus, supporting the dozens of brave workers who have spoken out publicly about how the contract is impacting their health and safety on the job,” the statement said.

“Most of all, it is insulting to those of us you just threw out of the company for voicing our concerns about Project Nimbus, as well as for the well-being of our Palestinian, Arab and Muslim colleagues facing Google-enabled racism, discrimination, harassment and censorship,” the statement continued, adding that the company’s leaders have long ignored concerns raised internally over the contract.

Hundreds of protestors, including Google workers, protest in front of Google's San Francisco offices on Dec. 14, 2023, to demand an end to its work with the Israeli government. Google fired 28 of its employees on April 17, 2024, for protesting inside two Google campuses against Project Nimbus, the company's $1.2 billion contract providing AI services to Israel.
Hundreds of protestors, including Google workers, protest in front of Google’s San Francisco offices on Dec. 14, 2023, to demand an end to its work with the Israeli government. Google fired 28 of its employees on April 17, 2024, for protesting inside two Google campuses against Project Nimbus, the company’s $1.2 billion contract providing AI services to Israel.

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images

Employees at Google and members of the NTFA have protested against Project Nimbus since its inception three years ago. The contract, which is for an initial seven years, gives Israel full access to Google Cloud’s AI and machine learning technology, and reportedly has strict provisions that allows continuity of service even if Google and Amazon Web Services come under boycott pressure. At the time, Jewish employees with Google sent a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai asking him to review the company’s contracts with “institutions that support Israeli violations of Palestinian rights,” citing the Israeli Defense Forces as an example.

Criticism of Project Nimbus escalated after Oct. 7, when Hamas militants attacked Israel and killed about 1,200 people. Since then, Israeli forces have killed nearly 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza and destroyed most of the territory, creating an ongoing humanitarian crisis that has rocked the international community.

Google has claimed that Project Nimbus is “not directed at highly sensitive, classified or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services,” according to Time magazine. But last week, Time reported that Google built custom tools for the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and has doubled down on contracting with the IDF since the military offensive in Gaza began.

In addition to Project Nimbus, NTFA alleges that the Israeli military uses Google Photos as part of its facial recognition efforts in Gaza. The resulting mass surveillance allows Israeli forces to make a kind of “hit list” of Palestinians fleeing bombardment, and reportedly detain and torture civilians with little to no evidence, according to The New York Times.

The amplified controversy around Project Nimbus comes after an investigation earlier this month by Israeli-Palestinian outlet +972 revealed that the IDF uses an AI-fueled targeting system called “Lavender” to select airstrike targets with very little human oversight. Israel has previously told HuffPost that its military does not use an AI system to identify Hamas militants, saying “information systems are merely tools for analysts in the target identification process.”

Last month, Google Cloud engineer and NTFA activist Eddie Hatfield was fired shortly after he disrupted a company-sponsored Israeli tech conference. Soon after Hatfield’s firing, Vidana Abdel Khalek, a Google trust and safety policy employee, resigned in protest of Project Nimbus.

According to Time, two more Google workers resigned last week, citing the contract and Google’s relationship with the Israeli military.

“Sundar Pichai and Thomas Kurian are genocide profiteers,” NTFA said in its statement. “We cannot comprehend how these men are able to sleep at night while their tech has enabled 100,000 Palestinians killed, reported missing or wounded in the last six months of Israel’s genocide — and counting.”


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